Abelly: Book 2/Chapter 01/Section 02/Part 02

From Vincentian Encyclopedia

The Diocese of Saintes

Abelly book two.jpg

Monsieur Vincent had sent the priests of his Congregation to present a mission in the diocese of Saintes around 1634. A pious person wrote the following account:

Our Lord blessed in an unbelievable way the mission at Saintonge. Many conversions took place in morals and even in religion. What was so praiseworthy in the work of the missionaries was that they made the people see the beauty of the Catholic religion in their usual way, without dispute. This in turn led several heretics to return to the Church. Madame de N. told me that she thought of these missionaries as the apostles of the primitive Church, in the way in which they accepted all who came to them, whether Catholic or heretics.

Monsieur Vincent sent other priests of the Congregation of the Mission to this same diocese in 1640 at the urgent invitation of the late Bishop de Raoul, who with his clergy welcomed them for their missions. [1] It pleased God to bless their work, for they produced much good, according to the reports of the superiors, confirmed by several letters of this good prelate.

In one of his letters, a missionary said:

We are at the end of our mission in N., which has lasted seven weeks. I hesitate to tell you of all the blessings we have received, for fear of vainglory. It will be enough to say that this parish, which had the reputation of being the worst in Saintonge because of its enmities, discords, and even murders, not to mention other abominations, is now, by God's mercy, completely changed. It has made public reparation for scandals given. A large number of people attended every service of the mission, even the short catechism instruction. Quarrels have been settled, spite has disappeared, and reconciliations have been achieved even without our active intervention. We attribute all these graces to the goodness of God and to the merits of the holy family of our Savior, to which we dedicated this mission. The people of another parish some distance away requested their pastor to bring a mission there. When this proved impossible they asked him to preach each morning, teaching them how to pray, and how to serve God well. He has begun to do this with much success.

Another priest wrote of a mission in another parish of the same diocese.

This mission has received many blessings, some most extraordinary, by the grace of God. Some important reconciliations took place between certain persons of considerable standing, which in the past even the bishop had not been able to bring about. For a long time there had been much bitterness over what these people thought of as serious harm in important matters. This in turn led to angry lawsuits, but now by the mercy of God these have ended, and the persons involved have become perfectly reconciled.

Although we found the parish completely divided, we leave it united in great peace, by the mercy of God. He has conferred other singular graces as well, in favor of noted public sinners who have been converted. These have, both privately and publicly, made restitution for their wrongs. God has touched the hearts of several converted heretics.

Another missionary reported on the mission in 1647 at Gemousat, in the same diocese, at which, besides the more usual fruits of the mission, a group of seven or eight heretics were converted. Several others seemed disposed to make this same change, but hesitated for fear of added taxes because the board which imposed them were all heretics. Most of them were pleased at the king's order obliging all to go to mass, for this provided a release for the human respect which had kept them away.

One of those converted was an old man whom we had exhorted several times, but without effect. Just before leaving, seeing that we had made no headway, the thought came to us to have recourse to the blessed Virgin Mary, to obtain the conversion of this poor soul. We had barely finished reciting the litany on our knees for this intention when the man came to tell us that he now recognized the truth and that he wished to abjure his heresy. We received his profession of faith, had him make a general confession, and then gave him holy communion. In saying farewell to us he earnestly begged that he be recommended to the prayers of all Catholics. [2]

The superior of the mission in Saintes stated in one of his letters that, after working for a solid month in the village of Deniat, he and the missionaries with him were so overwhelmed by the crowd of people from all the surrounding areas that they were forced to end the mission ahead of time. They were so weak they collapsed in the confessional. With regret, they had to leave a large group of people without the usual closing services of the mission. He added in his letter that more than four hundred reconciliations had been effected, and a hundred lawsuits ended.

These good people earnestly desired to make their confession. Since they knew that we would not give absolution to those not reconciled or at least to those who had not made every reasonable effort to be so, they went from door to door, seeking out those who might have something against them. On the eve of our departure a large crowd gathered in the church for evening prayers. The pastor announced the missionaries would be leaving the next day, and took the occasion to exhort the people to make good use of the instructions they had received during the mission. The people were deeply moved, and began to cry and weep so much that not a word could be understood of what the pastor was saying. The missionaries did not find it easy to leave, for the people did not want to let them go.

Almost the same thing happened in the town of Usseau, near the village of Niort. After working for a month there, the missionaries were so worn out and so weakened that they had to close the mission, leaving a large number yet to confess their sins. These people were so upset they tearfully begged the missionaries to stay, and cried so loudly that no heart was left untouched. A large number of reconciliations took place here also, but in the beginning the missionaries experienced great resistance, especially in their attempt to abolish the public dance held on the feast of Pentecost. It had occasioned many disorders, including the kidnapping of young girls and even murders. The sermon for Pentecost dealt with this abuse, but even so several of the townspeople went to the dance in the evening. The superior of the mission was alerted, and he and some other priests went to the scene, whereupon all the revelers fled. The next day a strong sermon was given before a large group of people, during which the violin used at the dance was broken into bits. The effect on the hearers, by God's grace, was such that all who had attended the dance were moved to repent. They came to throw themselves at the feet of the preacher, and asked pardon for their sin. The people conceived such a horror for dancing and all the evils accompanying it that they banished it entirely from their parish.

Another benefit of this mission took place at a meeting of the priests of the region, numbering seventeen pastors. The conferences there were so effective they all resolved to lead a more truly priestly life, in both their exterior demeanor and their interior spirit.

The missions of this diocese had been so blessed and had produced such good results that the late bishop of Saintes wrote to Monsieur Vincent in 1642 to tell him the people had come to thank him for arranging them. [3] In another letter of the same year, he said: "I have had your missionaries come to this city to take a bit of rest. For the past six months they have worked with such devotion that I am astonished they could manage it. I went myself to invite them here." [4] In another letter of 1643 he wrote: "I have spent the feast of Pentecost with your missionaries, who work with such marvelous zeal. They have the consolation of seeing the blessing God gives to their work. I cannot thank you enough for what they have accomplished." [5]

References

  1. Jacques-Raoul de la Guibourgere.
  2. CED III:164.
  3. Jacques-Raoul de la Guibourgere. CED II:266.
  4. CED II:267.
  5. CED II:397



This page:
Abelly: Book Two/Chapter One/Section Two/Part Two: The Diocese of Saintes

Index of this section:
Abelly: Book Two/Chapter One/Section Two/Index: The Most Notable Fruits of the Missions Given in Various Parts of France

Index of this chapter:
Abelly: Book Two/Chapter One/Index: The Missions of Monsieur Vincent

Index of:
Abelly: Book Two